Bowl prep resumes at OSU after whirlwind week with recruits, awards

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day’s December has been a bit busy.

After what he called the craziest week he has ever been a part of, he carved out a few minutes to meet with local reporters Monday less than two weeks before his Buckeyes will take on Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl with a berth in the national championship game on the line.

RELATED: Day wants Buckeyes to “accelerate through the finish line”

Here are five takeaways from the session:

1. He hopes to replace Jeff Hafley as soon as possible — but without compromising.

Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator was introduced Monday morning as the new head coach at Boston College, a position offered to him no doubt in large part because he helped engineer a major turnaround for an Ohio State defense that went from one of the worst in school history to one of the best in the country.

“We want to move quickly but be smart as well,” Day said.

Hafley was a hit with players because of his ability to connect and teach. He was hired by Day because they were familiar from working together previously and Day knew Hafley was on board with his preferred style of defense.

RELATED: Hafley says coaching at Ohio State ‘re-energized’ him

“You go to a place like Ohio State, you do well, things like this are going to happen,” Day said. “You can either go hire somebody that is going to be here for seven or eight years, or go hire the best in the country. We’re going to hire the best in the country.

“I told the DBs last year at this time, I am going to go get the best guy in the country. They didn’t know who Jeff Hafley was, now they love him, they’re going to miss him.

“Going to do the same thing again next year, go get the best there is. You call around to different people that you respect, but usually the people you bring in are people that you know really well and you trust.”

2. Ohio State will continue to play the same defensive style.

With defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, line coach Larry Johnson, linebackers coach Al Jefferson and assistant secondary coach Matt Barnes all expected to return next season, the Buckeyes will continue to play with four defensive linemen and a safety in the middle of the field the majority of the time.

“Based on the experiences I’ve had as an offensive coordinator, calling plays, I think that gives us the biggest struggle, that kind of defense,” Day said. “You mix that in with the guys we’re recruiting, the guys we have now, it’s a great fit. Linebackers, safeties, corners. That puts stress on the defense.” ‘

While the front seven is charged with moving back the line of scrimmage, the secondary mixes man-to-man (“Cover 1”) and an aggressive version of “Cover 3” zone popularized by Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks defenses in the NFL.

RELATED: Assistants reveal scheme nuggets

“Do I think we’ll evolve as time goes on? Sure,” Day said, admitting he was more comfortable getting into specifically at this time than he was before the season. “That’s the philosophy, those are the conversations I had with those guys when I came in. That’s why Greg is here, Larry, Al. They’re four-down guys. Jeff was a Cover 3 guy.”

3. The rest of the staff is expected to remain intact.

Washington, a former Boston College player and coach, has been mentioned as a potential member of Hafley’s staff, but Day said he would be shocked if that happened.

“If that’s what he wanted to do, I’d support him,” Day said. “I don’t see that happening at all.”

Day will have a quality control position open, though, as he all-but-confirmed reports Corey Dennis will be joining the new staff at Colorado State, where Steve Addazio was hired last week (after being fired by Boston College).

“I don’t want to blow them up,” Day said after asking if CSU had made an announcement regarding Dennis, who is the son-in-law of former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. “I know he has a chance.”

4. Day has endured a whirlwind first half of December.

Between visiting recruits who are able to sign national letters of intent Wednesday and accompanying current players on the national awards circuit, Day has not had much time to slow down since the Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 7.

“We only have three weeks to get ready for this game,” he said of the Dec. 28 matchup with the Tigers. “Really when you put recruiting into it, you have two weeks to play this game. This was a week where every second mattered in recruiting. I thought we did a good job getting out there. Had to travel a lot, do a lot of stuff. Again, now it’s back to focusing on Clemson, winning this game.”

READ MORE: Butler County connection and other things to know about Clemson

5. Balancing business and fun on their trip to Arizona will be a challenge.

When Ohio State played in the first College Football Playoff at the end of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes’ trip to the Sugar Bowl for a semifinal against Alabama was more or less the same as a regular bowl trip.

While that game was on Jan. 1, this one will be Dec. 28. That means the team will be on site for a shorter period of time but also miss being home for Christmas.

“We’re going to talk about that today in our team meeting,” Day said. “We still have a lot of work to do here on campus before we get out there.

“But this is a little different. Their curfews are going to be a little earlier. We really shouldn’t have to enforce those if we have the team we want. While they have to enjoy it, they will enjoy it, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand what’s at stake.

“I think our guys will do a great job with that.”

College Football Semifinal (Fiesta Bowl)

Saturday, Dec. 28

Ohio State vs. Clemson, 8 p.m., ESPN, 1410

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